Christianity and Materialism
Generally speaking Christianity is not reconcilable with materialism. There are two very simple syllogisms that illustrate why. The first is as follows:
- No one who believes in an afterlife believes in materialism
- Christians believe in an afterlife
- Therefore Christians do not believe in materialism
If the human person persists after death, apart from their material body, then clearly materialism is false. Granted, there are a small number of Christians who have tried to circumvent this argument by pointing to the Christian belief in the bodily resurrection at the end of time. This final resurrection is a material reality, and so is not intrinsically incompatible with materialism in the way that a state of immaterial existence would be. Nevertheless, the common view is that the "intermediate state"--the state between death and resurrection--is a time of immaterial existence for the human person, and that the persisting identity between the dying person and the resurrected person requires an intermediate state.
The second syllogism is even stronger:
- If materialism is true then there are no immaterial entities
- God is an immaterial entity
- Therefore Christians, because they believe in God, believe materialism to be false
Anyone who believes in God believes materialism to be false, for if God exists then materialism is false. The same argument holds for angels. In the end Christianity just isn't compatible with materialism.
The Nature of Materialism
Materialism is a metaphysical hypothesis, not a scientific hypothesis, so it can't be proved or disproved by science. Since the modern period the philosophical problems related to the tension between materialists and immaterialists have included things like the hard problem of consciousness, mind-body dualism, and the problem of identity. Science hasn't contributed to these debates in any substantial way.
Materialism itself is not a contemporary phenomenon and is actually quite old. Some of the oldest systematic expositions we are aware of come from ancient Greece and India, and usually saw reality as reducible to small material particles, hence the common name, "Atomists." Well known materialists in the modern period include Hobbes, Diderot, Feuerbach, and Marx. None of these thinkers grounded their thought in science in any special way. (Wikipedia)
Obviously most religions reject materialism, but materialism is also rejected by Platonists, Aristotelians, Manicheans, Thomists, Cartesians, Leibnizians, and Husserlians just to name a few. Though materialism's popularity has grown of late, it is just one metaphysical position among many.